Saturday, July 25, 2009

Acetaminophen - Not Many Options Left

During one of my Migraines a couple of weeks ago and for various reasons, I did not want to take a triptan and ended up doing one of the almost unthinkable acts in my world for a Migraine, I took an over the counter medication. I just needed to try to take the edge off so I could make it through the rest of my day without the triptan side effects so I had an Excedrin Migraine. Lo and behold within a half an hour and among other symptoms, I was unbearably itchy!

The only ingredients in the Excedrin are caffeine, acetaminophen and aspirin. Although at most I will only drink a half a cup of coffee a day, it still has caffeine in it so I ruled that out for causing me to be itchy. I waited a few days and again did the unthinkable by taking another OTC medication only this time, it was straight acetaminophen. Nothing - no itching or Migraine relief (not that I expected this).

The following week, I was given the opportunity to test the aspirin. Ut oh, aspirin seems to be the itchy culprit which also meant it was time to do more research on the internet. I gathered it is more of an intolerance or sensitivity than an actual allergy to aspirin, but probably something I want to avoid.

My research also said that if you have a sensitivity to aspirin, it is best to stay away from the other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve).

What is the problem now? There has been a lot of press lately about the FDA talking about limiting or banning different pain medications. I am still athletic and sometimes get sore in other places than my head where I need to take OTC medications.

I have read that we (aspirin sensitive people) can usually take acetaminophen to relieve pain, but an FDA panel has some recommendations out around acetaminophen including lowering its maximum daily dosage, making higher dosages available by prescription only, banning it in some prescription medications and other suggestions. Here is the complete article that was on MyMigraineConnection for you to read about Acetaminophen for Your Migraines? The FDA May Ban Some Medications.

It also mentions that this is being done because too many people are taking too high of a dose of acetaminophen and ended up hurting themselves. These recommendations are being put out there without any education being given to the consumers. Yes, I realize we could just take additional tablets without going the prescription route if needed, but is that really the answer or the right thing to do? I don't think so and besides, this is still America!

It just seems funny that they're starting to look at some of the OTC pain medications now after many doctors are afraid to prescribe prescription pain drugs because of repercussions. It doesn't make sense that the medications seem to get blamed for the incidents instead of those who aren't reading the labels and that no education is being offered for anyone so they won't know any better and could make the same mistake for the next medication they take.

When are we, the consumers, going to be held responsible for what we put into our own bodies? I know I pay the price if I eat the wrong foods that trigger a Migraine for me. This means I need to spend more time at the store reading food labels like I will have to start doing on any OTC medications now too. I don't think the Government will or should do this for me.

If I need an OTC medication for a pain and I can't take aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen and then they ban or severely limit acetaminophen, what would that leave me to try to for my normal pain?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Family Reunion Fun

I am still learning things about me and my Migraines all of the time. We had a family reunion this weekend. Without exaggerating, there were 93 people there! It was held at my parents 3 bedroom lake house which has a huge screened in porch, gigantic yard surrounded by woods, and a big deck by the large dock with many toys around for 'kids' of all ages.

This year's reunion actually started off much better than last year. If I can reminisce a moment, last year wasn't the same in a different way. I was more to myself about my Migraines last year. Only my mom was talking about me and them. You see, I always tried to handle things myself and keep to myself especially about me. Sometimes that's ok, but with Migraines, I'm finding it's probably better to share as not only can you teach other people more about Migraines, but you can always learn more yourself. I don't think there's ever knowing everything about Migraines or knowing everything about your own Migraines as they are ever changing.

At last year's reunion, the most profound question I got was from my godmother. She asked me the very simple question of: "when was the last time you had a migraine"? Reluctantly, I had said, that day. She picked up on it quickly and asked back if I typically don't tell anyone when I had one. It really made me think as I answered back that I didn't. I'd also been called out earlier that day by someone else if I keep working after I took a triptan or if I laid down for a bit. My pathetic answer then was that I may put my head in my hands, but mostly I will keep going.

I guess I've made some progress since last year. I talk more freely about my Migraines now. I had a lot more open conversations this reunion as I was asked many questions and even talked to a different cousin about someone she knows who is having an awful time with the lights at work and is about to lose her job over it. This is something I can definitely empathize over. You see, I started learning about and researching Migraines after a bad light exposure and reaction experience while at work. Before this, I never realized that Migraines were more than just headaches, why I was sometimes so moody, were the route of other symptoms I experienced, that Migraines can be triggered and so much more. I emailed my cousin this morning with a lot of information, helpful links to documentation as well as on-line support and all of my contact information for her friend. I hope it helps. I don't like to see anyone going through this alone.

I also had a nice conversation with a sister-in-law which led to chumming up with my niece who is going into the third grade. We talked a little from a Migraineur to Migraineur perspective. You see, a lot of people try to force her to do things, but they just don't understand her including her mom (her mom's own words). I'm hoping to get my niece to see that I realize what she is going through and want to help her find herself and guide her through whatever she may go through or feel. I know it's not easy for her and I need to spend more time with her.

I was glad a lot of the conversations happened early. I started noticing as it was getting later and as others were asking me how I was doing with my 'headaches', I started answering a little less sugar coated and a little more short, but not nasty. I was losing my patience, but not necessarily with them. I know they were just trying to be nice and make talk. I couldn't understand why I was like this until I realized where I was, what I had going on all day and building up.

I mentioned earlier there were 93 people. There were a lot of kids, which I love kids, but they make a lot of noise. There was a lot of other noise from the 'toys' that were around too; both in the water and out (ATVs and dirt bikes). It had just finished raining and when it wasn't raining the sun was shining bright. The only quiet time I had by this time was when my sister and I managed to confiscate the paddleboat and take it for a brief spin. We planned on doing a little talking, but the ride was all too short lived because that is when it started to pour.

Anyway, after we ate I realized I needed to find a quiet area and searched all over including the basement. They have some hidden rooms down there when I discovered the basement was covered with CFLs (Compact Fluorescent Lights)! At that point, I tried to mention to my sister that I needed to get away, but for someone who doesn't drink, she was having a very good time and couldn't comprehend a word I was saying. Coincidentally at that time, my father ended up needing to show off his newest toy to me, a camper vehicle which was exactly what I needed to calm down my over stimulated nerves. We had at least a half hour of peace time together. Thank you dad!

The day ended up with a personal fireworks display off of the dock and over the lake. This is always fun because other people around the lake like to compete with their own display of fireworks. The only problem for some Migraineurs? What else but the loud noises and flashing lights!

The family reunion was a lot of fun with a lot of trials, tribulations and triggers. Here was my list of triggers for the day:
    > noise - kids, boats, jet skis, ATVs, dirt bikes
    > sun - sun and glare
    > rain - enough said
    > lights - CFLs
    > fireworks - flickering and noise
    > family - definitely unavoidable - they will find you!

I guess I'll see what I can do and change for all of the fun to repeat for next year. Since this is my family, not going is not really an option. It's really the only time I will see many of these people for a long time too. Not everyone can attend every year either and it's really great to see them in a happy atmosphere.

Do you have any suggestions to try for next year?

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Migraine Specialist - Next Step

I've been doing a lot of thinking about true Migraine Specialists lately. Not because I feel I need one at this time, but because we should always reevaluate our situations, keep all of our options open and because of something I'll mention shortly. I also believe in thinking of the next step we'll need to take if something should happen with where we're standing now. How many times have you heard someone say - my doctor is moving out of state or retiring or dropping me? Or that someones Migraines have all of a sudden gotten so much worse? Do you have a plan if one of these scenarios were to happen to you?

I go to a specialist whose practice is about 80 to 90% headache and Migraine patients. I think she's good and by far, better than any of the doctors I've gone to previously. She probably does not have the experience of the world renown Migraine Specialist that you see around, but she continues to have ideas and has never made me feel like she is floundering for her next move or idea for me.

Why am I also revisiting this thought at this time? There was someone on MyMigraineConnection who was contemplating going to my doctor. Although I really like my doctor, in my opinion, it is much too soon to give a full fledged backing of her abilities as we know it can take a long time to get our Migraines under control and truly know the extent of their Migraine capabilities. What I tried to do was offer up my experience with my doctor along with many of the things I really like about her that none of my previous doctors have really given to me. Truly listening to me and even changing the way she normally treats her Migraine patients was one example I had given.

Anyhow, after I posted my experience, Teri Robert had posted a reminder to make sure the post author was looking at all of her options and Teri listed a few true specialists that are not far away. In a different post, the author had mentioned something about the doctor needing to be in her insurance plan. This is something I can totally relate to since I have the same problem. None of the doctors mentioned take my insurance so they would not be an option for me at this time either, but another doctor in Philly is in my insurance plan except that the first visit would have a lot of services which insurance would not cover. I know it would be worth it in the end, but there's a big financial balancing act that has to go on especially with two kids in college now.

After Teri's post, I researched a lot of the Migraine specialist articles. I know I have more questions to ask my current doctor which are on the list for my next visit. I've even gone overboard and color coded the different questions I want to make sure I ask. At the very least, I need to know where she stands if certain situations arise. One of the articles I used in my research was Migraine and Headache Specialists - What's So Special?

Right now, I feel I need to stick with my current doctor. I have a good rapport going with her. As stated above, she hasn't run out of ideas yet and I don't think I've out grown her capacity either. I still get too many Migraines for either of our liking. I do like how every time I come in for a visit, the first thing she asks is to see my new paperwork so she can tell where I am from my last visit. I've never had this enthusiasm before. I don't think I've mentioned before, but she is a Migraineur so she gets it from that respect too.

Keeping my options open, but still liking my current doctor...

Friday, July 3, 2009

Migraine Layoff?

I wasn't going to talk much about the latest round of layoffs my company just completed and just stay grateful that I still have my job, which I am. There are several that bother me, but one I want to focus on now. I understand the layoffs are due to the economy and that these types of cuts are hard for everyone.

My position is held by four people; one in each division around the country. It's not as big of a position as it might sound, but I feel it is an integral part in the daily operations for each division as we manage a unique group of talented people that interface with both internal and external customers of all levels.

Well, one of the four of us, Emily, was part of these layoffs. I know we were/are all vulnerable to the layoffs and Emily always seemed very capable. They did stress all along that these layoffs have nothing to do with job performance or competence, but are all areas that could be right sized.

It's taken me a little while to figure out part of what is really bothering me about her layoff. Emily is a Migraineur. To me, she was always strong enough to stay home when she did not feel well enough to go to work, then she would work from home after she started feeling better that day. My employer definitely knows I have Migraines as they have made workplace accommodations for me, but I am still hesitant to call out sick even when I know I should.

I've been doing a lot of reading when I can including Megan Oltman's articles on MyMigraineConnection where she has posts on working rights which includes topics on FMLA, ADA, HIPPA, accommodations, etc. I know Emily couldn't be legally discriminated against for her Migraines when the lay off happened, but it can also be very difficult to prove in the midst of all of these layoffs. I don't know the extent of all of the layoffs that went on in her division yet, but our division was hit pretty hard. Why would her division not deem our position necessary any longer while the other three divisions feel it is still essential? Could it be Migraine related? Just me thinking out loud again.

I know there are some things I do right with my Migraines, but I have never treated myself the way I should in terms of taking quiet time when I need it. I don't know for sure if that's why Emily was let go and never will. In the meantime, I know I will continue to try to find my balance between taking the down time I need and my struggle at work while I try my best to stay employed.

I will stay aggressive with my doctor in trying to get better control of my Migraines so this is not such a big issue. It would also be helpful if it would stop raining almost everyday. The weather is on my list to talk to my doctor about during my next visit too.